Postpartum Depression (PPD): Signs, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

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The birth of a precious little baby is an experience like none other. While it is a time for joy and celebration, it is not uncommon for new moms to experience the “baby blues.” This is likely linked to the sudden drop of hormones – estrogen and progesterone – after giving birth.

A prolonged episode of the baby blues can bring about a condition known as postpartum depression (PPD), or in severe cases, postpartum psychosis. While it is not often spoken of, it is estimated that up to 80% of women suffer from depressive symptoms, while one in eight develop full blown PPD.

Signs and Symptoms Associated With Postpartum Depression

The signs and symptoms associated with PPD often include the symptoms of baby blues, including anxiety, mood swings, sadness, irritability, crying episodes, trouble sleeping – beyond the typical lack of sleep associated with a newborn.

More often than not, PPD signs and symptoms last longer than a few weeks and can occur a few months after childbirth. Women find that they are unable to take care of their newborn, or other children, if applicable. Basic tasks are almost impossible, even overwhelming, to accomplish.

The following signs and symptoms are characteristic of PPD:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme anger or irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest and joy in life
  • Social withdrawal
  • Inability to bond with the baby

Treatment intervention through antidepressants, counseling, or a combination of both may be necessary if the above signs and symptoms last longer than two weeks or intensify. Emergent care should be undertaken if thoughts of harming oneself and/or the baby develop. The earlier treatment is sought, the sooner recovery can begin.

Risk Factors Place Women at an Increased Risk for Developing Postpartum Depression

Depression can occur after the birth of any child; however, there are known risk factors that increase a woman’s chance for developing PPD. These include a history of depression or PPD, under an extreme amount of stress, colicky or sick baby, lack of support, and relationship and/or financial difficulties.

Disclaimer: The preceding article is for informational purposes only. If you suspect you have PPD, you are urged to discuss your concerns and symptoms with your physician. PPD is a serious condition, requiring proper diagnosis and treatment made by a licensed health care provider. If thoughts of suicide or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby occur, call 911 or your provider immediately.

Sources:

Northwestern Memorial Hospital website. Prentice Women’s Hospital Launches New Initiative to Better Identify and Address Postpartum Depression.

Mayo Clinic website. Symptoms.

Mayo Clinic website. Risk Factors.

WebMD website. Postpartum Depression – Topic Overview.